“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

Day 1 impressions from Adobe MAX

So I’m attending my 1st Adobe MAX conference. (http://max.adobe.com/) I was invited to be on a panel to discuss their new Creative Touch Apps (http://blogs.adobe.com/creativelayer/) which were announced as part of today’s keynote (http://max.adobe.com/online/). Here are some of my thoughts after this one day.

The Keynote Opening

To kick off the keynote was an incredibly dramatic multimedia experience that mixed physical arts like dance & music performance with an incredible video projection that merged site, sound and story.

As you can see the visual of dance is a big part of the art direction and messaging of the conference. That special mix of choreography (interaction design) and orchestration (technical structure) combine together in this opening presentation in a powerful story. It was truly a telling of Adobe’s message as well as a study in almost all the pieces of Adobe’s toolkit coming together as a demonstration of eating one’s dog food.

The Keynote Itself

The big story of the day was two-fold in my estimation. Simply put, Adobe found touch and possibly over-dosed on it (in the best possible way) and Adobe is going subscription.

As noted above Adobe announced a series of Tablet applications designed with Touch UI in mind. Each application does a tremendous drop of exploring the nature of digital creativity in this trending format. The apps are as follows:

  • Kuler: Just like its desktop version an app for building color palettes.
  • Photoshop Touch: Surprisingly impressed me as a very real field photo editing tool that will allow people to work on the fly, or just explore photography.
  • Carousel: Is an interesting photographic cloud app that gives you access to your complete photo library online. What I liked about it is that only thumbnails represent the local view until you want to edit (or use) the original.
  • Ideas: This illustration application has been considered one of the best “sketch” apps on iOS devices for quite some time. But the demos I saw put it in a league all its own as a true illustration tool.
The last 2 are the most special to me:
  • Collage: This app for me is interesting in that there is no analog to it out there at all. The idea is to create mood boards, but the possibilities are to be a new type of qualitative design research tool. I can see it as a tool where you collect visual & audio artifacts and combine them with text to build a new type of persona model. a living persona model.
  • Proto: I am mixed on this app and have decided that my visceral excitement is more about the possibility in the future than what I can do with it now. The real treat for me as an interaction designer is the use of Palm Graffiti like gestures being applied to the sketch creation of web interactive prototypes.
As noted above the other big news isn’t what they would want you think–The cloud. But rather it is that small blip of the announcement that tells us that if you join “The Creative Cloud” you get access to all of creative suite’s desktop app. Now pricing wasn’t announced, but the change in business model is dramatic with broad impact to the software industry as a whole. I’m excited and anxious all at the same time.

The rest of the day
The rest of the day was mostly filled with observation. What I get from this is that Adobe is truly schitzo (in the incorrect usage of the term). It’s developer side which the organization has been pushing hard to fit into it’s organization ever since they bought Macromedia is truly in conflict with their creative side. Their past attempts to try and merge the two I feel have been awkward at best. The focus on the Touch Apps is a great step towards their roots. Their push into the beginning of design is the first bold move back towards their creative roots in quite some time.

The other dual personal conflict is more in my wheel-house. Where does Photoshop begin and Fireworks differentiate? I had a few conversations with Adobe folks and they are conflicted because their customers are as well. Designers refuse to give up Photoshop while Fireworks remains the best tool for designers to create mockups & interactive prototypes. On the other side of this love triangle is Flash and more importantly the new mistress Flash Catalyst.

Basically, Adobe has too many tools trying to do the same thing and none of them doing it well enough.

The event
This is not a design conference. This is a marketing event. As I tweeted earlier on this day, Adobe’s event is more a “how to” tools conference than a conference that gives true inspiration, offers criticism that helps us evaluate what is truly good design, and most importantly there is nothing here that challenges 2 important questions for design: why and for whom?

I’m having fun. I’m meeting new people and I’m learning some interesting new things … E.g. I learned how to import a page from one Fireworks file into another one–life changing.

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